Former Marine Chris Gaillard found a new career as a truck driver after training she received at Tidewater Community College that came without a price tag.

“I love what I do,” said Gaillard, who benefitted from a federal grant awarded to TCC’s Center for Military and Veterans Education (CMVE) that supports trucking training and education for military veterans and their families. “I’m doing what I always wanted to do and having the best time of my life.”

Owner of her own Freightliner Classic, Gaillard, 57, was immediately hired by Givens Inc., a transportation, warehousing and logistics company with locations in Seattle, South America and Chesapeake.

TCC is the only college in Virginia to receive funding through the Department of Transportation’s Commercial Motor Vehicle – Operator Safety Training grant program that received a recent boost when Bank of America donated $10,000 in matching funds.

After her Marine discharge, Gaillard worked as an auto technician for decades, but had been intrigued by trucks since childhood. A single parent, she began saving money to work toward her Career Studies Certificate in Truck Driving when she saw the information online about the grant. After the CMVE assisted her with the application process, she was accepted into the program.

“I was able to spend all the money I saved on living expenses and other things,” she said.

Gaillard completed the 12-week program in May 2015 and began her job within a week. She hauls everything from stereo equipment to automobile parts to baby wipes, rarely driving the same route twice.

“The freedom is the biggest thing for me,” she said. “I’m not stuck behind a desk or in a cubicle or in a garage like I was for 35 years. I’m out on the road. I get to see beautiful parts of the country that many may never see for free.”

Trucking is among the highest demand industries nationwide, as the Bureau of Labor and Statistics anticipates growth of up to 21 percent through 2020.

For information on the program, call Al Jackson at 757-822-7761 or email axjackson@tcc.edu.

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